Virginia and Auburn played in the national semifinals and the first game of the Final Four on Saturday. There was a controversial finish based on two moments, a call that put Virginia’s Kyle Guy at the line to win the game, and a double-dribble that was not called against Virginia’s Ty Jerome a few seconds earlier.
I don’t think many viewers or even courtside analysts – ex-coaches and players – picked up on the double-dribble until it was shown on replay. I’m not surprised by the failure of it being called.
James Breeding was the official making the game-deciding foul call. Auburn’s Samir Doughty did mess up by getting too close to Guy as he went for the shot in the final second and the foul was there, if the official wanted to call it.
I heard a dozen times that if it’s a foul earlier in the game, it has to be a foul with 6/10ths of a second remaining.
The argument against that is there’s a very good chance that it wasn’t a foul earlier in the game with Breeding, Keith Kimble and Doug Simons, since they allowed a great deal of contact between players for 39 minutes and 59.4 seconds.
To me, the shot was released and had no chance to fall before Doughty made contact with Guy – and Auburn would have been a fair winner. I also realize it’s a foul if a player takes away the landing area, and Breeding did not have to apologize for the call.
And here’s something basketball fans (including me) don’t say very often:
Throw away the final few seconds of the Auburn-Virginia game and my opinion of the Final Four was that it was very well officiated. I covered 15 Final Fours between 1981 and 2001 and there were the same celebrity referees showing up regularly and often deciding to become stars of the game.
I didn’t see that from the three crews that worked this Final Four. They stayed away from the urge to take over the game and turn it into a parade to the free throw line. They successfully walked the tightrope between letting the physical play get out of hand and dominating the game with their whistles.
Basketball refs are in a tough spot from the opening tip because of this simple fact: Officiating has much more impact on the outcome of a game of in any sport.
Call a foul and you’re usually giving away free points. Call every foul and you ruin a game.
My theory for a basketball (and football) official is this: If you’re in doubt, don’t call it. Error on the side of the non-call.
And that’s what it looked like to me from of the officials for most of the Final Four. And while it’s easy to disagree with Breeding’s decision to let Guy walk to the line to win the game, I don’t feel as if he had any doubts about the call.
Here are the numbers:
Game 1--Breeding, Simons and Kimble called nine fouls in the first half, 24 in the game and the teams combined to take 26 free throws, 14 by Tech.
Game 2-Doug Shows, Jeff Anderson and Bo Boroski called 14 fouls in the first half, 31 in the game and the teams combined to shoot 31 free throws, with 18 of those by Michigan State, which lost to Texas Tech 61-51.
Game 3 (overtime)-Ron Groover, Michael Stephens and Terry Wymer called 11 fouls in the first half, 16 in the second half, and then six in overtime – four on Texas Tech in the final minute as it was hacking in desperation.
Virginia went 12 for 12 on free throws in overtime. Before that, in 40 minutes, the teams had shot 26 free throws, and 15 of those were by Texas Tech, the 85-77 loser in the title game.
Officiating with such restraint had much to do with assisting the entertainment level for this Final Four.
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Official all-Final Four team: Texas Tech-Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney. Virginia-Hunter, Jerome, Guy. MVP-Guy.
My all-Final Four team: Auburn-Anfernee McLemore; Texas Tech-Brandone Francis; Virginia-De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy. Outstanding player-Hunter.